About Me

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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The year that was... (albeit a little late)

From left, Mod Flower by Abigail McLellan, Christmas Card 1992 by Craigie Aitchison

Resurgence by Craigie Aitchison

I always baulk at being described as an art critic. It's such an unfriendly moniker and carries the weight of assumption that I'm in a superior position to cast my well-honed opinions around the shop willy-nilly - which I'm not. There are others in a much better position to do this and they do it very well.

Towards the end of last year though, I was asked by The Herald newspaper to cast my eye over the Scottish visual arts scene in 2009 for the final arts supplement of the year, along with various other 'critics'. There was a 200 wordcount on the piece and I chewed my metaphorical pen for a goodly number of hours, attempting to work out the highlights. These things are always very subjective.

I've posted the text which appeared below, but after I wrote the 247 words (I've always been prone to overwriting, despite a strict training at the tabloid coalface), the death of Craigie Aitchison was announced.

Edinburgh-born Aitchison, who died in London at the age of 83, was an artist's artist, who never conformed to any particular trend in art, and who pursued his own unique vision to the end.

His work is instantly recognisable. Spare, poetic, buzzing with colour and beautifully composed, his art was generous and free from pomposity. He clearly knew just when to stop and allow the painting or print to breathe.

Thinking about him and looking at his work led me on to reflecting on the life of the late Abigail McLellan, who died in October last year at the age of 40 from multiple sclerosis.

Abby was hugely influenced by Craigie Aitchison and she had the same ability to know instinctively when a piece was finished. The same unerring vision and ability to draw the viewer into her head space and allow them the stand back and clear the detritus which inevitably clogs our cluttered modern minds.

After a visit to Abby's last year when I interviewed her for The Herald about what turned out to be her last exhibition, I decided to start up this blog because I was so excited by the possibilities and power I picked up on her work. One of the reasons I think journalists love to blog is that they can't help sharing stories. It hasn't happened if they haven't shared it - and 600 words DEFINITELY wasn't enough to share the story of Abigail McLellan!

The title image of this blog is a painting of Abby's called Allium on Blue and it's come to represent much more to me than simply Allium on Blue.

Art, to me at any rate, is not about criticism and making people feel stupid about what they don't know. It's there for everyone to engage in at whatever level they want to engage in it. It's there to make them feel connected. Artists reach out - often beyond the grave - and touch us in ways which are complex and constantly evolving.

2009 in Visual Arts
Published in The Herald, December 26 2009

ALTHOUGH artists have undoubtedly felt the pinch this year, there has been a huge outpouring of creative energy in Scotland throughout 2009.
From Inverness, where the inspired Re-Imagining the Town Centre is in full flight, to Dumfries and Galloway, where its annual Spring Fling offered a blue print in how to manage an open studios event, artists, makers, gallery owners, curators and arts administrators have risen to the challenge of the recession in style.
In the middle of it all, the summer’s Edinburgh Art Festival served up a feast of old masters and young Turks. In Dundee, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art broke the mould by staging its degree show in the aptly-titled Vision Building.
Glasgow-based Richard Wright won the Turner Prize (netting him £25k) and two unknown Scottish painters, Alistair Pender and Keith Salmon, scooped £15k and £20k respectively when they won The Aspect Prize and the Jolomo Award.
Exhibition highs included the Discovery of Spain and Jean Bonna’s collection of old Master drawings at the National Gallery of Scotland and the Agnes Martin exhibition at Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art.
Kate Downie’s Coast Road Diaries, (at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries this coming January and Duff House, Banff in May), is an outstanding body of work which celebrates the work of a host of influential Scottish painters.
Welcome arrivals on the scene include Trongate 103 in Glasgow, The Artist Rooms, Jupiter Artland outside Edinburgh and the re-hang at Edinburgh’s Gallery of Modern Art.


  1. So completely agree with what you say about art. I write books and I am constantly stunned at how much an artist can convey in a picture - more story and depth of feeling than any novel. I love the array of beautiful images on your blog, thank you for showing them to us.

  2. Thanks Keren. I'm half way through My name Is Joe though and I can confirm that you are a dab hand at painting pictures with your pen (or keyboard...) I think visual art takes the process of connecting with other humans to another level. That words are had the stroke are not part of the process is paramount. Since mum had the stroke nearly three years ago and has quite literally been robbed of the ability to talk, I think that's why I have reconnected with it so strongly and why writing about it suits me. All art (music, prose and poetry and visual art) is about a sense of loss in a strange way.


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